Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
America’s most important civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of our nation’s greatest heroes. It’s a good time to take stock of how far we’ve come toward achieving equality for all—and also what we in public life still need to do to make that dream a reality.
“Perhaps the greatest civil rights challenge we face today is ensuring that all our children get the education they need to succeed in today’s world. The right to a quality education is just as much a God-given and American right as the right to vote. And we are making an historic effort in this city to provide and protect that right—in a system that had failed generations of New Yorkers for far too long.
“As a result, math and reading scores are up, graduation rates—although still too low—are improving, and we’re finally closing the intolerable achievement gap between students of different races and ethnicities. In addition, we’ve committed $75 million to create parent coordinators in every school so that parents have a stronger connection to their child’s education and can provide the support that will make a huge difference. We still have a long way to go, but we are clearly on the right track.
“We’re also working to fulfill Dr. King’s dream by keeping New York a city where people of all races and income levels can live, work, and raise families. That’s why, for example, we’ve launched the largest, most ambitious plan to build affordable housing of any American city in history. We will build enough new housing for 500,000 New Yorkers—that’s equivalent to the number of people who live in Atlanta. Our population may be growing and our real estate market may be booming, but we’re not about to let that squeeze out the people who really make up the fabric of our city’s neighborhoods.
“We are also taking aim at one of our city’s most longstanding, entrenched problems—poverty. “In a city that exemplifies so much hope—a city that’s a beacon of opportunity to the rest of the world—it’s unacceptable that one out of every five New Yorkers lives below the federal poverty line. Last year, my Commission for Economic Opportunity came up with new strategies to help thousands of poor New Yorkers—many of them hard-working families—climb out of poverty for good. And we recently committed more than $150 million annually to turn many of those recommendations into sound practices and policy.
The Annual MLK Day of Service, run by City Year and the Mayor’s Volunteer Center is a day of tribute to Martin Luther King. Hundreds of young volunteers will use the day off to give back by repainting public schools and cleaning up a community center in Bedford Stuyvesant. What a great tribute to Dr. King’s spirit, who showed us that we all have a duty to make the American dream a reality and that ‘the time is always ripe to do right.’#